It is rightly considered to be bad form
to talk about resurrection during Holy Week.
It is important that we remain in the horror of the week,
go to the cross,
live in the darkness,
be stripped of hope
as Jesus was stripped,
indeed, be flogged by our complicity,
as Jesus was flogged.
There should be no cheap hope this week;
no quick movement to the end of the story.
Yes, it is with good reason that we refrain
from talking about resurrection during Holy Week.
Except, that St. John frames Holy Week with resurrection.
You see, there is the business of Lazarus.
Why did the authorities want to kill Jesus?
Why was he such a threat to their rule?
Was it simply that he upset the hierarchy
with his teaching of discipleship and service?
Was it because he had launched a revolutionary movement
that would bring down the Roman empire upon their heads?
Was it because he flaunted the rules of holiness
by healing on the Sabbath?
Was it his street theatre performance
overthrowing the tables in the Temple?
It was all of these things.
But John also ties the plot against Jesus
to the resurrection of Lazarus.
It is in response to the resurrection of Lazarus
that the authorities planned to put Jesus to death (Jn. 11.53).
In response to new life,
the forces of death,
the principalities and powers of death,
are infuriated and plot the death
of the One who has cheated death.
In response to resurrection,
the machinations of death are put in motion.
Take a look at the narrative that follows in John.
During the very next story,
the tale of Mary’s anointing of Jesus
for his burial,
we are not only told that Lazarus
“who Jesus had raised from the dead”
was present at the meal (Jn. 12.1),
but also that the crowds came to see
both Jesus and Lazarus
“whom he had raised from the dead” (Jn. 12.9).
Twice, our narrator wants us to remember
just who this Lazarus is and what Jesus had done for him.
For John, Holy Week doesn’t just end with resurrection,
it begins with resurrection.
And, for John, it isn’t simply a matter of book-ending
the narrative with resurrection,
but also of demonstrating the insatiable forces of death.
You see, in the face of the One who brings life,
and indeed, in the presence of the one
who had been raised from the dead,
“the chief priests planned to put Lazarus
to death as well, since it was on account of him
that many of the Jews were deserting
and were believing in Jesus” (Jn. 12.10-11).
In a culture of death,
resurrection is the deepest threat.
Some years ago,
I gave a lecture called
“Resurrection in a Culture of Death.”
It was the Fall of 2001.
And I asked what might rise
from the ruins of the World Trade Centre.
Might there be resurrection here?
Might there be the possibility that out of this terrorism,
something might arise that was a force of life, not death?
Might these deaths awaken us from our culture of death?
And my answer was, No.
While not discounting how moments of resurrection and hope
might have arisen in the lives of some of the survivors,
from a cultural perspective
I did not see how anything but more death
more grieving families,
would rise from the ashes of 9/11.
Our culture of death had no resources,
no imagination, no depth,
for resurrection in the face of such death.
My respondent to that lecture began with,
“Of course this is all pernicious nonsense.”
But he did not say that my conviction that
more death would rise out of this violence
was pernicious nonsense.
No, the pernicious nonsense was my contention
that America was a culture of death.
I don’t think that I even need to mount such an argument anymore.
The numbers of the dead since 9/11,
in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria,
and on the streets and in the schools of America
all bear gruesome witness to this culture of death.
Maybe we have seen something new happening.
You see, the day before Christians celebrated Palm Sunday;
the day before Jesus marched into the capital city,
to shouts of “Hosannah,”
the day before that act of revolutionary street theatre;
there was another march into a capital city.
It was called the “March of our Lives.”
But while Jesus rode into Jerusalem,
from the resurrection of Lazarus
to his own crucifixion,
the hundreds of thousands of young people
who marched into Washington and around the world
were moving from crucifixion to resurrection.
These amazing young people had already
had their day of violence;
they had already seen their day of death;
they knew all about crucifixion,
and on Saturday, March 24 they marched for life.
This was, if you will, a march for resurrection.
In the face of a culture of death, they choose life.
In the face of a culture that fetishizes the gun,
they call for a society of protection and safety.
In the face of politicians who have become numb to death,
bought out by the powerful gun lobby,
they announce that a new day is dawning.
It took something like six hours for Jesus to die
on that Roman cross.
The tools of death today are more efficient.
It took six minutes and twenty seconds
for seventeen people to be killed at
Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14.
With tears and anger that reminded me of
Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus,
student Emma Gonzalez stood for
those six minutes and twenty seconds.
She was standing for the lost.
She was standing up to death,
in the name of life.
And the powers of death,
the politicians and the NRA
are now plotting to silence the children.
For these kids, it is already Holy Saturday.
The crucifixion has happened,
their friends are in the ground.
But instead of fleeing in fear,
as the disciples did,
they have come to the palace of Pilate.
They have run not away,
but to the very heart of the powers.
But in their grief they are demanding life,
they are demanding resurrection.
This Holy Week, all Christians,
all who choose life in the face of death,
marry our longing for resurrection,
with the courageous longings and demands
of this amazing generation of young people.